#52: Embracing Self-Care without Guilt, with Acupuncturist Rachel Brumberger

Today’s guest is acupuncturist Rachel Brumberger, here to talk about acupuncture and Chinese medicine and how you can use those principles to do some self-care at home right now.

Rachel began studying acupuncture in 2009. She has earned a master in acupuncture, a master of Oriental medicine and a postgraduate certificate in women’s holistic health—all from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. She co-founded Third Space Wellness in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, about five years ago. Then, in 2019 she started Rachel Brumberger LLC, which is the home of her clinic, writing projects and wellness for workplaces. She now has her own practice for clients in downtown Bethesda, Maryland.

Rachel explains the concepts behind acupuncture. It’s whole body medicine, recognizing that the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual are all connected. Therefore, acupuncture can help with a wide variety of ailments, including migraines, menstrual disharmony, back pain, sleep issues, anxiety, depression and infertility.

Even though I dislike winter, the past two years as we have come out of winter, I notice I feel more blah than usual. I don’t feel like myself. So, two years ago I decided to go to Rachel—who I had received acupuncture from before—just to see if she could soothe me. She knew exactly the feelings I was talking about as we changed seasons.

As Rachel explains, human beings have seasons just like Mother Nature. It’s common for people to come out of winter—which should be a slow, hibernating season—and feel strange or blah.

“We reflect the season, and sometimes our bodies need a minute and need a little help catching up to that movement so that we can move into it with more ease. As we regulate the energy within the body we’re basically synching up to the nature around us.”

As we’re all dealing with new and enhanced feelings that can change daily during this coronavirus pandemic, Rachel asks us first to pause and acknowledge our feelings. Sit with your emotions before you try to “do” something about them.

Rachel compares emotions and feelings to waves forming in the ocean. Picture yourself at the beach and how the waves come in, crest, go out and come back. Our emotions are like that. And it’s important to allow your feelings to come in like waves before you try to fix them, label them, judge them, stop them, heal them.

This could mean watching a sad movie and crying through it. It might mean laughing, yelling or crying with a partner or a close friend on Zoom—or it might be a very private thing you do by yourself. Take a quiet moment with no work, no kids, no phone, no immediate responsibilities. Clear the space and sit with your thoughts and feelings. Some people find it easier to do this at night when the rest of the world is quiet.

After you do this for a bit, then you can begin to think about self-care tools you can try.

Right now, there is a lot of noise in our world, especially for those people who are being asked to be on video chats all day long. Even extroverts are recognizing they need some peace and quiet right now.

“We can’t really go anywhere too much and yet it still feels loud, too loud, to do our feelings.”

There is no shame in having a wide range of emotions. Acknowledge that you are a human and that these are the emotions that humans experience. If you weren’t supposed to have a full range of emotions, you wouldn’t. Humans are built this way. That helps to not judge yourself.

Recognize that if a friend was experiencing these feelings you would not judge them about their emotions. So, why judge yourself?

“There’s all kinds of fascinating dynamic emotions people are experiencing right now that they maybe never had before, or never this big, or not for a long time, so it can be very confusing.”

Can you listen to yourself and your emotions—with love and respect—and not judge yourself right now?

Now, what are some of the tools we can use? First, come back to your breath. Start by lying on the floor or at least put both of your feet flat on the floor. Take a few breaths—that is the cheapest, most accessible tool we all have. It can slow down our brain and our nerves and calm us.

You can do this yourself or search out meditation apps like Calm or Breathe.

As you’re waiting for each Zoom chat to start up, sit with both feet on the floor and take a few deep breaths. Take deep breaths while you’re cooking or while you’re taking a shower. It doesn’t have to be 40 minutes of meditation. Where can you put it in your day where it’s easy?

Unclench your jaw, drop your shoulders, unfurl your brow. Breathing deeply helps.

Write “Breath” on Post-it Notes and stick them around your house to remind you.

Drink water. Think of a wilted or dried-up plant. Our bodies are 70% water, so remember to hydrate, which can affect your emotions too.

If you don’t love water, add a pinch of salt or a lemon or a berry. Even drop a tea bag in your water—something that makes the water seem more like food for the body. Sip the water—don’t gulp—throughout the day.

If you can, eat as healthy as possible. Consider canned and frozen fruits and vegetables if you can’t easily get fresh ones right now.

Write down the three times of day that are best for you to eat. It differs for everyone. What times work for you? Write it down and stick to that schedule.

If you skip breakfast or you push your lunch back a few hours or eat dinner later than you are used to, you start getting crankier and that can increase anxiety.

You can use principles of acupuncture at home on yourself or others to take care of yourself. A “scraping” technique is called Gua Sha, which helps the body move stagnation. Watch Rachel’s helpful how-to Instagram video to learn this easy method: www.instagram.com/p/B-Ablj1B1Jl.

You can do Gua Sha on sore muscles, or on the chest to relieve anxiety and anger, and on the chest or back to help general moodiness.

You can also massage acupuncture points on your own body. See links below under Resources for information about a couple of points. Do the ones that feel good to you. When you find an acupressure point oftentimes the area will feel tender. However, the rest of the body will start to respond to that massage and start to regulate itself.

You can also use the five senses. For example, take the sense of smell. What smells good to you? A particular spice, a flower, a candle, your shampoo? Use your nose to smell those scents regularly to calm yourself.

How do you get through these tough emotions when you have an immediate deadline or kids to take care of? Take a minute away from work, away from your family and jump up and down for a few seconds. It might sound silly, but it helps. You can also take one hand and wipe it down the other arm, like you’re wiping something off. Then do the other arm.

If you are feeling angry and annoyed—like Melanie admits she gets some days during pandemic—and if you have the flexibility in your schedule, just stop the work day. Take a break. Give yourself a “permission slip” to just stop.

You can also tell the other person exactly how you’re feeling. Ask for a minute. Ask to call them back or postpone the meeting. That rarely crosses our mind because we’ve been taught to suck it up or leave it at the door. But if you name that feeling and admit to it, it’s easier to blow away those feelings.

People are more understanding and sympathetic than they probably ever have been. Unlike other hard moments, we’re experiencing this with so many other people. It’s not just our tough moment or problem.

Sometimes it just helps to sleep on your feelings—if you aren’t having trouble sleeping. And if you have to make a decision, tell the other person, “I need a minute. Let me sleep on it and I’ll let you know tomorrow.”

Melanie—who is a fan of naps anyway—decided to take a nap recently on a day when she could not stop her anxiety from spiraling. So she just took a nap and woke up two hours later feeling better. Not perfect, but the anxiety had calmed way down.

Think of yourself like a toddler—when you get overwhelmed, troubled, cranky, you may need to go to the bathroom, eat, get some exercise or sunshine, or take a nap.

Even before a meeting, open a window or step outside even for one minute to breathe in some fresh air and feel the sun. Or you can even just lie down on your floor and look out the window and listen to the birds.

Thank yourself, give gratitude for your body, mind and spirt, for freaking out. Your body is taking care of you and trying to save you in the “flight or fight” moment. Tell your body that is OK to calm yourself down. Practicing gratitude acknowledges your feelings and prepares you to begin breathing practices.



Rachel on Instagram

Rachel on Facebook

Rachel demonstrates how to do Gua Sha at home in this Instagram video.

Yintang acupressure point to try at home

Liver 3 acupressure point to try at home

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